Why the Ty Lawson trade is win-win for Houston, Denver

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As fans and analysts, the natural inclination with any trade is to pick a winner. In our minds, someone needs to come out on top. But in negotiations (and that’s what a trade is), one of the first rules is to give the other guy something they want to make sure they believe they have won. Both sides need to feel like they’ve gotten better.

That’s what we have with the Denver Nuggets trading Ty Lawson to the Houston Rockets — both sides got what they wanted. It’s not perfect, but both teams think they are better for this move.

Here’s why it works for both teams.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

• They got the best player in the deal, Lawson is far superior to anyone else in this trade and bumps the Rockets potentially up with the Thunder/Spurs/Warriors/Clippers as contenders in the West.

• Houston didn’t give up any guys who were part of their playoff rotation or likely were part of their long-term plans — yes the move is a gamble but they didn’t give up much if it doesn’t pan out. It’s low risk for Houston.

• Also former NBA coach John Lucas is in Houston, and he’s a guy a lot of NBA players battling addiction issues turn to for help. The Rockets reportedly have reached out to him.

• This makes James Harden happy; he’s wanted a more offensive-minded guard next to him to relieve some of the playmaking pressure the beard faces. Lawsons’ quickness will help.

• Whether or not Lawson starts, the Rockets’ bench just got deeper.

• That said, I think this is an upgrade for the Rockets but not the massive one that some on Twitter claimed. There are two reasons holding me back. One is Lawson has personal issues to work out — he’s in a California alcohol rehab facility now and faces two DUIs from this year (he’s had three DUIs overall and there reportedly are other incidents). He will face a suspension of some length from the league. Lawson was a mess in Denver, showing up late to practice, not being motivated, and being the opposite of a leader. Lawson’s supporters say that in a new setting and given responsibilities on a contender he will get right and play well. I hope so, for his sake, but he has frustrated every NBA coach he ever had.

• My second Lawson to Houston concern is on the court — playing Lawson and Harden together would be a defensive liability. To me, it makes more sense to continue to start Patrick Beverley still and bring Lawson off the bench, just to make sure they still get stops. Coach Kevin McHale has some versatility and options in his backcourt to experiment with now, but the Lawson/Harden pairing may present problems.

DENVER NUGGETS

• Denver’s primary goal this summer is a locker room culture change and moving Lawson was a key part of that plan — they see it as addition by subtraction. Even with the non-rotation players they got back, Denver wanted to make this move to keep Lawson away from their young, developing players. Expect a few more moves to follow as Denver reshapes its roster to something coach Mike Malone can work with.

• After that second 2015 DUI, getting a first rounder for Lawson — even one that has some healthy protections and likely lands in the 20s — is an accomplishment.

• Denver also cleared out a lot of cap space, giving them real flexibility going into next summer.

• Welcome to the Emmanuel Mudiay era in Denver. That’s a very good thing, he will be in the mix for Rookie of the Year and grow from there.

• Nick Johnson has shown some potential, and Kostas Papanikoloau is the kind of shot creator Denver needs now. Those guys may develop into something for the Nuggets (if they keep Papanikoloau, his deal is not guaranteed).

In a surprise to nobody, Hassan Whiteside will pick up $27.1 million option

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The Miami Heat have been looking to trade center Hassan Whiteside for a couple of years now, but finding someone who would take on his massive contract proved impossible (at least at the level of sweeteners the Heat were willing to throw in).

Whiteside’s no fool, he is not leaving that money on the table, and in an obvious and expected move will pick up the $27.1 million on his contract. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported it, but everyone knew this was coming.

Whiteside stands to make $27.1 million next season and plans to inform the Heat in the days before the June 29 deadline. Once he formally opts in, the Heat will be about $4 million over the projected $132 million luxury tax threshold, factoring in Miami’s first-round draft pick and forward Ryan Anderson’s expected buyout.

Bam Adebayo is now the starting center in Miami, Whiteside will make that money to come off the bench. That said, Whiteside put up numbers — 12.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, and he does it efficiently — and he wants more minutes to prove he could do more.

Miami would be more than happy to trade him and let him have those minutes on another team. We’ll see if that massive expiring contract can entice some teams into a trade.

Miami wants to be aggressive this summer, but they are already into the luxury tax, which ties their hands.

Report: Pacers to target Ricky Rubio, also talking to Pelicans about No. 4 pick

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Indiana would have been a tough out come the East playoffs, that is until Victor Oladipo went down (ruptured right quadriceps tendon). They still believe with a healthy Oladipo this coming season they can move into the upper echelon of the East. But they need some roster upgrades.

Specifically at the point guard spot. D'Angelo Russell‘s name has come up, but target, but Ricky Rubio seems to be their top target, reports Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.

Unrestricted free-agent point guard Ricky Rubio will be a top target of the Pacers, according to multiple league sources. Rubio would replace point guards Darren Collison and Cory Joseph—both unrestricted free agents—and share the backcourt with Victor Oladipo, who ruptured his right quadriceps tendon this past season. Rubio is a worse shooter than Collison and Joseph, but would provide a significant defensive and playmaking upgrade to better complement Oladipo’s score-first style.

Rubio gets a bad rap from some fans because he’s not a great shooter. However, he’s developed into a good floor general who runs a team well, can defend his position, and still throws some stunning passes. He could help a lot of teams, the Pacers being one.

The Pacers also might try to move up in the draft.

The Pacers have also discussed a trade with the Pelicans for the no. 4 pick in the draft, according to league sources.

You could remove the phrase “the Pacers” from that last sentence and put 27 team names in there and it would be accurate. The Pelicans have shopped that pick all over the league.

One way or another, expect the Pacers to be aggressive this summer. They are a team that believes they are one player away and they have both the cap space and trade assets to get something done. They want to open their championship window.

 

Report: Chris Paul demanded trade after Rockets’ second round loss

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Things apparently aren’t as bad as they have seemed recently between James Harden and Chris Paul.

They’re worse.

Paul demanded a trade after the Rockets’ playoff exit because that relationship couldn’t be salvaged, Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports reports.

Paul went to Rockets management and demanded a trade, and Harden issued a “him or me” edict following the Rockets’ second-round loss to the Golden State Warriors, sources said.

The backcourt mates went nearly two months without speaking to each other during the season, sources said, creating a tenuous environment for teammates and everyone involved with the franchise…

“There’s no respect at all, on either side,” a source told Yahoo Sports. “They need to get away from one another. Chris doesn’t respect James’ standing in the league, and James doesn’t respect the work Chris has put in to this point.”

Rockets GM Daryl Morey denied that Paul is available in an interview on the Dan Patrick Show today.

“We were the best team down the stretch. We’ve spent a lot of time putting together two superstars. We’re trying to add a third,” Morey said. “Going backward from that doesn’t make a lot of sense to us.”

Paul is not easy to play with, just ask Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan. Paul is one of the highest IQ and most competitive players in the league, but that leads him to be relentless on teammates, continually pushing and correcting them, and that led to tension in Los Angeles.

Harden, who is the reigning MVP and finished second two of the previous three years (and that likely will be three-of-four after this year’s results are released), is a guy who is not going to put up with that.

At the heart of the issue is style: James Harden dominates the ball and likes to work in isolation, Chris Paul prefers a more fluid offense. Coach Mike D’Antoni, the guy who does not have a contract beyond next season (extension talks faltered), gives a lot of leeway to Harden. Paul, among other players, complained to D’Antoni about that. Nothing changed.

Still, it’s not going to be easy to split this duo up.

As a tandem they have made the Rockets the second best team in the West for two years running, and if not for CP3’s hamstring injury in 2018 they might both have rings. Do the injuries to Kevin Durant (who might leave the Warriors anyway) and Klay Thompson change their perception and approach to this relationship? Together they are a serious threat to win a title and they know it.

There’s also the practical matter: Trading Paul is going to be very difficult and might require the Rockets to throw a sweetener (a pick or young player) in the deal to get it done. It’s not that CP3 is terrible — he averaged 15.6 points and 8.2 assists per game last season, and he remains the best floor general in the game — but he is 34-years-old, lost a step last season, has an injury history (he played 58 games last season), and most importantly is owed $124 million fully guaranteed over the next three seasons. That’s a lot of money to take on.

The Rockets are rumored to have talked to teams seeking a point guard (Phoenix, for example) but sources have said there has been little traction on any deal. And again, Morey denied he was available (which he would do whether or not that was true).

Just as the door to the Finals through the West swings wide open, the Rockets are stumbling and may not be able to walk through it.

Report: Knicks, who have No. 3 pick, to work out Darius Garland

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Duke forward R.J. Barrett is the consensus No. 3 prospect in the upcoming NBA draft. He wants to join the Knicks. The Knicks have the No. 3 pick.

Perfect match?

Maybe not.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

Maybe this is just New York doing its due diligence. The Knicks could also be trying to drum up trade interest among teams that want Garland.

But this feels a little like 2015, when Jahlil Okafor was the consensus No. 2 prospect for most of the pre-draft process but D'Angelo Russell emerged late as the Lakers’ No. 2 pick.

Barrett is a flawed prospect. He didn’t hit jumpers efficiently at Duke. His decision-making is suspect. He’s too left-handed dominant. He rarely uses his defensive tools. There’s a lot to like, to be sure. Barrett has nice size, athleticism and physicality. He’s a good ball-handler and playmaker. He seems built for a leading role.

But it wouldn’t shock me if a team likes Garland more. The point guard is a knockdown shooter with the ball-handling and footwork to get that shot off. He needs work as a distributor and lacks Barrett’s defensive potential.

Garland might not be as good as Barrett right now. But Garland’s path to success might be a little more projectable.